The man sat in the boat. The boat sat in the sea. The sea was calm, and the man sat in the boat that sat in the calm sea.
It was night. It was night, and the man was alone, and the man could not sleep.
The sky was filled with brilliant stars. The man could see the outline of the boat in the starlight. He could see the outline of the boat, but that was all he could see. The starlight was light, but it wasn’t bright. The man could see nothing of the sea. The man could see nothing inside the boat. But the man could see the outline of the boat against the sea.
The moon was new. The moon did not shine at all. It was too late in the night for the man to look for the black disk of the new moon against the starry sky. The man could look, but he could not find it. The new moon had set early at night, and now it was late at night. The man decided that the next night he would see the small sliver of the waxing moon low in the late evening sky. And he would.
The man tried to pick out as many constellations as he could. He counted fifteen. He counted fifteen, but a couple of them he was not sure if he had correctly identified. None of the constellations seemed very clear to him. The man wondered if he had enough imagination to enjoy stargazing as others seemed to have. The man enjoyed stargazing, especially when he was alone in the middle of the sea late at night during the new moon, but he did not find the constellations to be the vivid stories others saw.
The man was hungry, but he did not eat his food. He had brought plenty of food, but he never ate after midnight. He never ate after midnight and before sunrise. Whenever he ate at that time, he woke the next morning with a heavy stomach and a headache, so the man no longer ate during that time.
But the man was still hungry. He was hungry, but he did not eat, and he would be glad of it in the morning.
The man thought about the woman he would see the next day. He thought about the woman he had seen the day before. They were two different women. He had seen the woman he had seen the day before in the place he had been the day before. He would see the woman he would see the next day in the place he would be the next day.
The man sat in the boat that sat on the calm sea in the night between the day before and the next day. The man sat alone. The man sat alone without a woman—between the woman of the day before and the woman of the next day.
The woman of the day before had been demure. Demure and hard-to-get. So the man had stopped trying to get the hard-to-get woman of the day before, and he set off in his boat across the sea from the place he had been the day before to the place he would be the next day. He set off alone. Alone without a woman in the night.
The man wondered why everything always came down to women.
The man always liked to be alone, but sometimes he wished he could be alone with a woman. The man pondered for a long time what it meant to be alone without a woman and what it meant to be alone with a woman.
The man was alone with a boat and with a sky full of stars. The man was alone with a full bag of food that he would not touch until sunrise. The man was alone, but he was alone with many things. He thought about the next day when he would be alone with the woman he would see the next day in the place he would be the next day, and he wished he were alone with her this night under the brilliant stars, sitting in the boat sitting on the calm sea.
Then an apparition appeared. The man did not believe in apparitions, but he had enough sense to let things play out before he passed judgment.
The apparition appeared over the bow of the boat. Over the bow in a bright light that washed out the stars in the sky before him. The apparition appeared as an angel. The man did not believe in angels, and he had no idea why he understood the apparition to be an angel considering it had no characteristics in common with the mythical description of angels from any culture he was aware of. The man was in no mood to quibble with his own judgment, so he decided to let things play out before he passed judgment.
The apparition of the angel was a female angel. She seemed to try to speak to him. Her lips moved as though she was speaking, but the man heard nothing. The apparition of the angel continued with her monologue apparently unaware that the man could not hear her.
The apparition of the angel held forth on her silent soliloquy for more than half an hour, and then she nodded her head curtly and disappeared.
The man was unfazed. He stared at the bow of his boat and tried to understand what had just happened. He was ready to pass judgment, but he had no frame of reference from which to judge such a phenomenon. So he waited, his mind blank, to see if the apparition of the angel would appear again with an audible voice.
It did not. Neither with an audible voice nor inaudible. It never appeared again.
The man could see the stars again, the stars that the apparition of the angel had washed out. The stars were still brilliant, and the man could see the outline of the boat again, but no more than that. The brilliant stars were still light, but they were still not bright.
The man half-expected a mermaid to pop up beside the boat, but he decided he was not the kind of man who had that kind of luck.
So the man went back to thinking about the woman he had seen the day before and the woman he would see the next day. A woman in the flesh beat an apparition of an angel or a mythical mermaid any day—or night. But the women were not in the flesh. They were in the man’s mind. They existed in the man’s mind just as the apparition of the angel and the fantasy of the mermaid did.
The man was startled when a heavy shock shook his boat accompanied by a sharp noise of wood thumping against wood.
A voice called out from a short distance away telling the man he could have it if that’s what he really wanted but the curse would sit on his head forevermore.
The man saw the shape of another boat that had abruptly pulled up along side his own. Then the man saw the sailor of the other boat rowing his boat furiously after having delivered the ominous message.
Another thump—a softer, lighter thump—came from the bow of the man’s boat. The sound of the sailor rowing the other boat faded into the distance, and the sea was calm once more.
The man found in the bow of his boat a wrapped package, just bigger than his hands. He could not see it. The brilliant stars were light, and they were still not bright.
The man thought about the apparition of the angel, and he thought about mermaids, and he thought about strange sailors who accosted him in his boat in the middle of the calm sea in the middle of the night and left strange packages and delivered strange messages.
The man did not believe in any of it. He tossed the wrapped package into the sea, and he fell asleep under the starry sky.
The next morning, the man arrived at the place where he would be that day. He found the woman he would see that day, and he saw her. He was alone with her.
The woman he was alone with asked him if he brought the package.
The man said what package.
The woman the man was alone with told him what package.
The man said he had thrown it into the sea the night before.
The woman the man was alone with said it was about time someone had the sense to end that silly game.
And the woman the man was alone with disappeared, leaving the man alone.
To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.